Preface to Shayna’s “letter” to me


From my book, this is the lead-in that describes how my hand was used to transcribe Shayna’s “letter” to me, which was “written” in early February 2013:


An other-worldly document that blossomed out of this journey: Shayna’s “letter” to me

All of this reflection, and my observations, and the spiritual growth I’ve experienced during our journey thus far, led me to a number of unexpected places.  This book is one tangible expression of them.  But another document emerged that I debated whether or to include here, because it’s about as “out there” as you can get: a “letter” from Shayna to me.  I know, it sounds crazy.  Let me explain.

Sometime in early February 2013, several events and thoughts occurred that led me to ponder what “Day One” of my life, after Shayna is no longer here, will look like, and how I will deal with it.

This process was spurred when something compelled me to think much more deeply about why, after Shayna collapsed on October 29, 2012 in the upstairs level of my place, I never let her up there again.  (I prevent her access by placing my mini-trampoline at the base of the stairs, just as I did during her “mid-life crisis.”)  The first answer I came to was that I could not handle see her in that same place, ever again.  The image of what happened, of her getting wobbly, then collapsing, was seared into my mind, just as the moving images of what happened to me as a child are burned into my memory.  Perhaps the reason was my fear that climbing the stairs might again cause her heart tumor to bleed, or aggravate it.  But that wasn’t really a valid concern after the first few weeks – because as I showed in the videos I linked to a few pages back, Shayna was far healthier after her October 29 collapse, and treatment, than before.

So what, then, could be the real reason why I would not allow her to go up there?

It bugged me for about a week.

Then, that “little voice” spoke to me, again.  It said that the real reason I never let Shayna upstairs again was that I need to become acclimated to an environment in which she does not exist, and stressed how important it was for me to have “my own space” for periods of time, where it’s just me.

Since Shayna’s diagnosis, I’ve basically lived downstairs with her, me on the sofa, her with a makeshift bed next to it.  The upstairs was the only place that I could be alone.  My office-studio (the largest bedroom) is upstairs, as is the one full bathroom, and my bedroom.

Soon after that answer came to me, while I was upstairs working one day, another thought – or rather, a question – occurred to me: “If Shayna could speak, what would she want for me, after she’s gone?  What would she tell me, on Day One?”

I took out a piece of paper, and before I knew it, my hand was writing so fast that the words were barely legible.

It turned out to be a long “letter” – from Shayna to me.  I felt like I was only a scribe at that point, in which my hand and fingers were merely passive instruments of her spirit.  And my hand couldn’t move fast enough.  It ended up being five pages of quickly-scribbled notes.  I tucked it away in a file I keep in my laptop backpack, figuring that I’d think about it at some point in the future.  It was just too intense, too weird to think about any further at that time.

A few weeks later, when Shayna had a few “down” days in a row, I transcribed it.

What came out was the single most spiritually significant “writing” endeavor of my life.

In summary, Shayna “said” many of the things that one might expect a dying little girl to say to her beloved daddy, who also happened to be her best friend.  Who himself was dying a bit inside, willing to give pretty much anything to be able to reach into her body and safely remove her heart tumor, but knowing that neither he nor any surgeon in the world could do so.

But the letter was also much more than that.  It dispelled some of my erroneous notions as to what, assuming there is a Heaven, Shayna’s going to experience there, at least initially.  And it gave me a number of really smart suggestions on how to view our separation, and insights on how I will be able to carry on without her, but to keep her spirit and legacy alive and working for dogs and their parents, forever.

It is the most beautiful document I ever read – but I am convinced that I had very little role in writing it.

Clearly, I had good reason to seriously debate whether or not to mention the “letter” in this book, or include it.  But this story would not be complete without sharing it, because it will be my guiding star, the message that I will hold close to my heart, for the rest of my life.  And it only happened because I decided to really listen to that “little voice” that has been guiding me since 9/11.

Back to Shayna”s “letter” to me.